Last year, in the late summer and early fall of 2003, our staff had put together an article on how the season had been quite tranquil in the Eastern Pacific. At the same time, the Atlantic Basin was having its most active season since 1995 with 16 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.
The 2004 Hurricane Season in both the Eastern Pacific and the Atlantic appear to be no different than its predecessor. So far, the Eastern Pacific has had only eight named storms, four hurricanes, and one major hurricane. The season, which begins on May 15th, also had four tropical depressions.
Despite the sluggish start last year, the Eastern Pacific still managed to equal the activity in the Atlantic with 16 named storms, 7 hurricanes, but unlike the Atlantic, had no major hurricanes although there were a number of Category Two storms. So far in 2004, Darby has been the only major hurricane in the Eastern North Pacific.
The Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season usually begins on May 15th and lasts until the end of October while the Atlantic Hurricane Season lasts from June 1st to November 30th. It is not unusual to see one basin have a more active season than another. During the El Nino year of 1997, the Atlantic only had eight named storms while the Eastern Pacific had 17 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 7 major hurricanes.
Likewise, in the La Nina year of 1995, the Atlantic had 19 named storms, 11 hurricanes, and 5 major hurricanes while the Eastern Pacific had only 10 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. El Nino coupled with the Southern Oscillation (ENSO) results with above average sea surface temperatures throughout much of the Pacific, and produces increased hurricane activity in the Eastern Pacific and decreased activity in the Atlantic. Meanwhile, the La Nina season has the contrary occur with cooler sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, which results in increased tropical activity in the Atlantic and below average activity in the Eastern Pacific.
Like last season, the Atlantic season has gotten off to a better start than the Eastern Pacific with more named storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes so far. Now, conditions improved the latter portion of the season in the Eastern North Pacific, which led to numbers that paralleled much of those in the Atlantic, but the latter still had a better year with more major storms, and damage including $3.37 billion from the effects of Hurricane Isabel.
This year, the Atlantic appears to have the edge again after a frenetic August that saw eight named storms, four hurricanes, and three major hurricanes develop. Two of them, Alex and Charley ended up making impacts along the United States coastline causing billions in damage while Frances hammered the Florida Peninsula during the Labor Day Weekend in September.
In the first three months of the 2004 Eastern North Pacific Hurricane Season, there were only four named storms, three hurricanes, and one major hurricane. Believe it or not, that still fared better than in the Atlantic, which didn't have its first tropical depression until the last day of July. However, it is important to note that hurricane season in the EASTPAC begins in the middle of May while the Atlantic season begins at the beginning of June.
Last year, the Atlantic had a big year because it even had storms in the months of April and December with Tropical Storm Ana became the first recorded Atlantic tropical system in that month as it formed around Easter time while two tropical storms formed within a week in December. Only Hurricane Darby has reached major hurricane status with winds of 105 knots, or 120 mph. Meanwhile, in the Atlantic, we have seen four major hurricanes, three Category Four Hurricanes, and two of those had winds over 140 mph.
There have been four tropical depressions in addition to the named storms and hurricanes in the region while none have formed in addition to the storms in the Atlantic. All the depressions in the Tropical Atlantic Basin have gone on to become named storms. Much of that may be due to the fact that sea surface temperatures tend to be cooler at even much lower latitudes in the Eastern Pacific due to the cold California current off the West Coast of North America.
Currently, there is no news or knowledge of an El Nino or La Nina pattern in the Pacific. Just your usual climatic conditions in both the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific. However, since experts have indicated increased rainfall in the Sahel region of Africa, and warmer sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic, activity has been above average in the Atlantic while just average or below average in the Eastern Pacific.
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